Yet More Family Reunions…

I had intended, in my previous blog post, to carry on into Saturday, June 21, but ran out of time. Besides, over 2000 words is enough for one sitting., both to write and to read. Too much, for some people….

Following the excitement, noise and shenanigans of my side of the family, we had our Annual Summer BBQ on Tim’s side of the family. It’s a different experience entirely. The Metzger family, while a strongly opinionated–whom Tim would playfully describe as ‘determined’ in contrast with the Harder ‘stubbornness’–are a very peaceful group to spend a day with. Pleasant and peaceful.

No wrestling. No throwing water at anyone, or playing tricks. No rambunctious nonsense or people laughing until they can’t talk. What I’m really saying is that they are more self-controlled, mature stock than I come from.  I enjoy both worlds equally.  That Saturday, however, I was quite ready for the world I was in, to unwind from the busyness of the preceding week.

We met at noon, but our family was late. Tim, Nicole and Bryan had to work until noon. Everyone brings food to these events. Lots of it. And, true to the reputation of Mennonite cooking, it is good food. Frighteningly good, for someone trying to make good food choices.

We sat in the shade, in a haphazard circle, to eat lunch. The weather couldn’t have been much more perfect. Hot and sunny, with a nice breeze.

After lunch–which really had more dinner qualities than lunch qualities–Uncle Amsey hooked up the wagon and offered to take willing participants on a ride to the back of the property. A good number climbed on board, and away we went.



Amsey’s farm was the childhood home of John and Lavina Metzger, Tim’s grandparents. We listened to the uncles and aunts reminisce, when we stopped at the back of the property, going back down memory lane of ‘how things were’ back then and what has changed. It’s hard to picture parents–in this case in-laws–and uncles and aunts as little Old Order children, running around the farm.  If the property could tell stories and produce images of days gone by, it would fascinate me to spend a great deal of time knowing those stories.

I jumped off the wagon to get a few more pictures. No more was I in the long grass when one of the uncles warned, “Look out Trudy! There are snakes in the grass!” Immediately others chimed in.

For one brief moment they spooked me before I realized they wanted a reaction, and resisted the urge to dive for the wagon again. Okay, I take that back about there being ‘no shenanigans’ in the Metzger family…


The young boys went exploring for a few minutes, several nearly hidden by the tall grass. A picture perfect moment


Kordan lasted a few minutes in the long grass before returning to the wagon to sit with his daddy, and watch his the others wade through it. I managed to capture a father-son picture, as well as a close up of my love.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back,  cousin Jen–a fun and beautiful friend–sat with her father’s farm, and the Macton Catholic church  in the background, creating  a lovely picture. And several other interesting shots…


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…including a personal favourite of these two little boys, against the blue sky. It made me think of their lives… So young… it all lies before them… and the sky really is the limit…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack at the house,  a few aunts and one cousin sit in a circle of now mostly empty lawn chairs. They seemed quite happy to have stayed behind in the shade. And two nights later, when my sun-burned shoulders awakened me to a sharp stinging, I understood why.


We kept the annual tradition of ice cream mid afternoon. There was popcorn again, as well, and I wonder if it is becoming the new annual tradition. That’s two years in a row. And that suited me just fine, since I’m not much of a fan of ice cream… unless it’s mixed in with popcorn.  I totally grossed Jen out, but Uncle Dave Metzger and cousin Lorna tried it and concluded it wasn’t too bad.

(Before you say, “Eww gross!’ and write it off, I suggest you try it and then form an opinion. When my daughters brought this idea home from a sleepover with their friend Cherry, I was totally disgusted… until I had one bite… In my opinion chocolate is best, and it’s best with super cold ice cream, when it’s not so hot that ice cream melts quickly. That way the popcorn stays crisp and crunchy. )

Tim and I engaged in a deep conversation with Uncle Dave Metzger, hearing his heartbeat on everything from faith, to family, to the culture of his childhood.  Uncle Ab and I had a short conversation as well, sparked by a column I had printed in our local paper, and he shared of the discussion it triggered among some of the men from their church.

He wondered if I’d speak for them sometime, and I said I’d love to! We’d even do a Q & A session, I said, if they’re interested. From what he told me of their discussion, it would be a mutual learning experience and a delightful time.

There were many other interactions, but those two stood out. In both instances the uncles instigated the conversation… With age and time there is much wisdom. While these uncles are still young, they have lived long enough to have that wisdom and I enjoy the dialogue.

As I left the gathering, it struck me, again, how important family is. I left home a month before sixteen, and never really bonded again the way healthy families bond. Even what bond was there before I left, seemed lost. In some ways that can’t be regained, but with time and age the awareness hits me of what was lost in that process.

I find myself, especially in the past year or two, enjoying time with family–whether Harders or Metzgers. A cousin with whom I had lost touch in my early teens, has become one of my dearest friends since 2010, when we reconnected via Facebook and she attended the first conference we did for women. When I’m with siblings, I’m at ease again and truly enjoy the time.. And my in-laws are among the people I love most and enjoy being with.  I call my mom a few times a month–in spite of the fact that I can’t tolerate phone calls and phone conversation because of restlessness and distraction issues–and we talk for an hour… or two… or more… At the end of the day it is true that blood is thicker than water.

After the reunion our family spent a few hours at the Crane Lake Discovery Camp annual BBQ fundraiser. It’s always a great time, and an opportunity to connect with friends we don’t see often. That could be another thousand words, but I’ll spare us all.

I had parked beside the grave yard so I took a few more pictures.  I find them quite beautiful. And they carry many an untold story that would capture the mind and heart, if it were to be told. Dreams lie there, unfulfilled, unexplored. Others lived with passion, changing someone’s world. Tragedies. Promises. Hopes.

These all create a sense of mystery and wonderment for me, when I see the tombstones, marking the memory of someone resting there. And always I think about my life, and the unknown, and pray my dreams will not go to the grave with me, but that I will keep living them, no matter the  battles I fight for them.


Those happy and determined thoughts in mind, I started for home. Heading toward Wallenstein, the light caught my eye between the trees and I pulled over once more, to take a few final shots of the evening sun.



As if promising of ‘tomorrow’ the sun slipped behind the horizon in the west, bringing to a close another beautiful day.  My heart was full at the realization that the world is most beautiful when shared with those we love, and those who love us. When we hold on to the things that matter most, and embrace difference of opinion and culture. When diversity is not a threat, but an opportunity for richness and sharing.

These past few days, my world was most beautiful!


© Trudy Metzger

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Milking Water Buffalo

On July 8  I wrote Adventures in Amish Country. I had visited Aylmer Amish Country the previous day and fell in love with the people there, having been warmly received by them all. Rosemary Gascho was the sweet hostess then, who allowed us ‘English’ women into her home and welcomed us as if we blended right in.

While quite aware of the difference, I felt comfortably a part of their world, a world that is really quite delightful with its sense of community and simplicity. I would be lying if I said it does not captivate me and draw me in, making me long for the country, the animals, the food grown in the soil of the farm.

There is something about the simplicity of the Amish way of life, about living off the land that makes me think of Eden, of what we were originally created for… minus the clothing. But that would just be awkward now… Not to mention gravely inappropriate.

It was with great delight that I returned this weekend. My friend Ira Wagler, author of Growing Up Amish, messaged me some time ago to say he would be coming in August–would I meet him, if I was free. It took no time to decide. If my schedule was not clear, I wrote back, I would find a way to clear it.

I ‘met’ Ira through his brother Nate, with whom I have been friends for quite a few years, but had never met Ira in person. We’ve been back and forth about writing–him being a New York Times best seller, and me working at writing and building a platform. He has graciously allowed me to pick his brain on the ‘stuff of writing and publishing’, for which I am grateful.

And then I learned that Nate would also be in for a visit. He and my friend Juanita (his girlfriend) would also be in Aylmer over that time. I was ecstatic! I had not seen Nate in several years and wouldn’t miss it for the world!

On Saturday our sixteen-year-old daughter Nicole, and I, packed to visit Aylmer Amish country. We would stay the night at my friend Helen’s, and Nicole could spend some time with her daughter, Shelby. If she wanted to, I said, she could come with me to my Amish friends’ home on Sunday. Out of respect for the culture she would need to take a skirt along.

Nicole wrinkled up her nose. She has never liked skirts a day in her life. Not even as a little girl, when we were Mennonite. “I’ll pass,” she said. “I don’t even have skirts I could wear. And if they can’t like me the way I am, well, then I don’t want to go. And, besides,” she said, “it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Would you make them wear jeans to come see us?”

I tried to explain that ‘it’s different’, but there was no use pushing it, I thought, since she has no relationship with them. I was quite sure she would enjoy it, but am don’t want to teach her to pretend to be what she is not, so we decided she could stay at her friend’s house. With her sense of truth and justice, for me to force it would only serve to frustrate her and would do nothing for our relationship.

Nicole wants to be a lawyer–family law, she thinks. At 9 years-old she decided this, and I think she will do well, given her passion for truth and justice, and her compassion for children. But it makes for interesting parenting. Good, but interesting. She thinks of everything.

Nicole packed jeans and a few tops to wear. Since my selection of skirts is sparse, because of my preference for jeans and slacks, I took four of my best ones along and several different tops to choose from. I would decide on an outfit in the morning.

Sunday morning Nicole headed to church with her friend and I decided to revisit Corinth, a little ‘hick town’ where I lived from age six through nine. Things change with time, as they should, but it was hardly recognizable. I parked my car, grabbed my camera, and took some shots of houses on our street.

My childhood home. (formerly grey)
Mr & Mrs Wolfe–next door neighbours
The Kline family
The Smith family

Several minutes into this photography session, a door opened and a couple stepped out of their house to observe. Some things obviously had not change since we left. In small towns, everything is everyone’s business and it was just as well. Otherwise rumours would have had it that someone in town was selling and a real estate agent was in taking shots of the community.

I introduced myself and explained the real purpose of my photography session. The woman lit up. “My name is Angela–I was Angela Smith.” Her husband introduced himself and we shook hands. A little reminiscing and I learned that her cousin, Christine, who came to visit in the summer, moved to Alberta. Christine loved me. Truly, deeply. She is the only person who hugged and kissed me all those years of childhood. The one person who absolutely adored me and made me feel secure in friendship, leaving a lasting print on my heart.

“Could I take your picture?” I asked, before leaving.

“Oh my…” followed by a few awkward laughs from both. A flustered Angela ran her hands through her hair. Her husband chuckled and joined her. “I’m not even dressed for it,” she said, tugging at her shirt, but then agreed to pose.

I assured her she looked great, and snapped a few photos before saying good-bye.

There is something about returning to childhood homes, past communities, and the memories of days gone by that make the  mind wonder, ‘What if…’

What if we had stayed? I shudder. Life was hard here. It’s where so much abuse happened. Where Dad threatened to kill us when I was seven. Where I ran to the Wolfe’s to get Mom, on his command, when she fled, leaving us younger children asleep in bed, because he said he was getting his gun. It’s where I saw him whip my sister ruthlessly for breaking curfew at age fourteen. It’s where I had countless nightmares, where every shadow at night was Dad coming for me. No, I don’t regret that we left.

I thank God that, though the years that followed were hard, He did not leave us in that place. Through ‘hell and high water’, and a few painful church experience, He carried us through, to get us where we are today. I feel nothing but wonder and awe at His kindness in the hell of what this world had to offer.

One last look around and I was on my way. It was time to visit Amish country and meet my friends, both old and new…

To Be Continued…..

© Trudy Metzger

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